Dutch architect and theorist. Originally a journalist and film-script writer, he trained as an architect at the Architectural Association in London (1968–72), where he was influenced by the visionary projects of Archigram. Thus Koolhaas’s first work, with Elia Zenghelis, was ‘Exodus’ (1972; unexecuted), an imaginary project providing London with a central ceremonial strip to house all metropolitan activities. From 1972 to 1975 he studied with Oswald Mathias Ungers at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Fascination with the metropolitan lifestyle resulted in the foundation of the Office For Metropolitan Architecture in 1975 with Madelon Vriesendorp and Zoe and Elia Zenghelis. Their conceptual projects centred mostly around the metaphor of the metropolitan city as expressing and even generating a diversity of contemporary cultures, for example ‘City of the Captive Globe’ (1972) and ‘Welfare Island Redevelopment, New York’ (1975–6). In 1978 Koolhaas published Delirious New York, elaborating the Deconstructivist theories previously expressed through his drawings. From the late 1970s Koolhaas and OMA began to concentrate on competition projects, for example the extension of the Dutch Parliament Building (1978; with Zaha Hadid), The Hague. This and the restoration project for Arnhem prison (1979–80) best illustrate their position on the relationship of past and present, producing unashamedly modern yet contextual designs. Influenced by the early modernism of De Stijl and the Russian Constructivists, Koolhaas attempted to reinvent and recapture the diversity of the Modern Movement before the establishment of the Rationalist canon. In the 1980s he shifted towards more realistic projects, particularly housing programmes, for example two projects for Interbau (1981), Berlin; a residential building project (1980–82), Rotterdam; and public housing (1983), North-east Quarter III, Amsterdam. His urban plans include the Amsterdam North Development Plan (1984). His continuing avant-garde approach is seen in the Kunsthal (1993), Rotterdam, which echoes Mies van der Rohe’s Nationalgalerie, Berlin, but in a deconstructed version marked by elements from popular culture (e.g. the large electronic signboard) and the juxtaposition of fine marble and glass with raw building materials (e.g. exposed orange steelwork).
From Grove Art Online
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